OTTAWA — The cultural sector received a $1.87 billion boost over five years Tuesday in a Liberal budget that aims to reshape the narrative of the economy.
To do that, storytellers and musicians, artists and journalists all need investment, the Liberals said as they presented a budget that followed through on a key promise to restore funding to the CBC but delayed or trimmed promised funds for other groups.
"Believing in innovation is also believing in the talent and in the creativity of Canadians," Finance Minister Bill Morneau said, in a prepared text of his remarks.
Cultural funding is a fraction of new program spending announced Tuesday but the money is flowing to places that suffered from years of Conservative cuts.
Bill Morneau appears after tabling the federal budget on March 22, 2016. (Photo: Justin Tang/CP)
Among them, the CBC, which saw its budget slashed by $115 million a year by the Conservatives beginning in 2012. The losses were made worse by the Conservatives' cancellation of or reduction in funds focused on Canadian programming.
During the campaign, the Liberal promised to restore and increase the CBC's budget and will begin with a $75-million injection this year, followed by $150 million a year over until 2020-2021.
CBC said the money buys some badly needed breathing room to assess the progress of its digital strategy and invest in the future.
"This reinvestment is a vote of confidence by government and by Canadians in our programs, our people, and our vision for the future," said Hubert Lacroix, president and CEO, in a statement.
The corporation said it would provide further details on how it will spend the money in the coming months. They will have another plan to work on — the budget said Heritage Minister Melanie Joly will also develop a "five-year accountability plan."
"This reinvestment is a vote of confidence by government and by Canadians in our programs, our people, and our vision for the future."
The Liberals had also campaigned on increased funding for the Canada Council for the Arts, Telefilm Canada and the National Film Board. While they came through in the budget, it's for less than promised.
Last year, the budget for Canada Council for the Arts was $180 million. The Liberals had promised to add an additional $90 million this year and $180 million going forward. But that's been put off. The organization will see an additional $40 million this year, with the promised extra $180 million not coming until 2020-2021.
The organization — which uses much of its budget to provide grants to Canadian artists — called the money a once-in-a-generation re-investment that is a vote of confidence for the capacity of the arts to invigorate the economy.
"The Canada Council, along with the remarkable artists and organizations we support, is ready and anxious to responsibly deliver results that will benefit millions of Canadians," Simon Brault, the director and CEO said in a statement.
The NFB and Telefilm Canada were promised $10 million more this year and $25 million more a year after that. They'll receive $3.5 million this year, and $8 million a year until 2020-2021.
Campaign commitments to showcase culture
The Liberals are following through on a campaign commitment to programs that showcase Canadian culture around the world. The Tories had axed both the Promart and Trade Routes programs, but the Liberals will create new versions and fund them to the tune of $10 million this year and $25 million in 2017-2018. There's no money set aside after that.
Though no mention of museum funding appeared in the Liberals' campaign platform, money for them has also emerged in the budget.
Around $387 million for the country's six national museums and as well as the National Art Gallery has been set aside over the next five years and a further $168.2 million over two years for a Canada Cultural Spaces Fund to support the construction and renovation of arts and heritage facilities across the country.
Two museums get special attention. The Science and Technology Museum will receive $156.4 million over three years; the facility was forced to close due to building problems.
There's also $9.6 million for the National Gallery. It has been suffering thanks to construction in Ottawa in recent years, which has rattled its signature windows and caused damage.
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